It’s been just over two years since Allison and Bradley Kruse took the leap and opened NonFiction Natural Wines at 800 E. Potter Ave., a wine shop with a keen focus on wines made with low intervention old world methods which allow the grapes to speak for themselves. [The Kruses offer up a lesson in natural wine on the FoodCrush podcast]
But the owners have already outgrown their little shop, thanks to both a growing interest in natural wines and a loyal fan base who stuck by the retailer even through the worst of the pandemic.
In fact, in 2022, they will be moving the shop to a brand new location at 2563 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., next door to the new location for Honeypie Cafe.
The new location will not only supply additional space for Nonfiction's retail business. But it will also allow them to expand their offerings in a variety of ways.
The little wine shop that could
Kruse says she’s still in awe of how quickly they were able to grow their retail wine business.
“It was great timing,” recalls Allison Kruse. “We were fortunate that there was already quite a bit of interest in natural wines, which meant there was a growing audience for the wines that we offered. So, lots of people came in, checked us out and – most importantly – they told their friends.”
Word of mouth gave the shop a great start. But Kruse says that, even when the pandemic hit just six months later, they didn’t see a drop in sales.
“The shop was still small, so it was just Brad and I. We didn’t have any employees to worry about, so we were really able to focus on things like putting our entire inventory online and ensuring that people had easy, safe ways to keep supporting us.”
In fact, Kruse says that the pandemic actually worked to NonFiction’s advantage.
“It brought in so many new customers,” she says. “More people were drinking at home and looking for new things to try. We also found a lot of new customers. A lot of people from New York, Seattle and Chicago who either moved back to Milwaukee or who came here to stay with family, and many of them were interested in natural wines.”
In fact, Kruse says that – even after nearly doubling their wine selection – keeping the shelves stocked was their biggest hurdle and the one which prompted them to think more seriously about moving to a bigger location.
‘Our shelves are packed,” she says, “But we just can’t keep up with demand. In order to survive, we knew we need to grow.”
So, when the owners of Ursa, 2534 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., mentioned to the Kruses that Scott Genke was redeveloping the building across the street from them to include both apartments and ground floor retail space, they decided the space was worth exploring.
“We did a walk-through,” says Kruse, “And then just let the idea percolate for a while. We weren’t certain that it was the right spot until he called us and we did a second walk-through. And then, suddenly, everything started to come together. As we talked it through, we realized that there were so many reasons why the space would work well for us, from the foot traffic in the area to the size of the space.”
What to expect
The new shop, which is about double the size of NonFiction’s Potter Street location, boasts high ceilings and a blank canvas with which to work. But the modern newness of it all was intimidating at first, says Kruse.
‘Our aesthetic is definitely more lived in and cozy,” she says. “So, we’re looking at ways of bringing that vibe to the new space with elements like vintage furniture and a palette that’s based on clean white, but also intermingled with warmer tones. It also has 20-foot ceilings, so we’re also looking at ways of bringing that down a bit, just so the space feels more intimate.”
Currently, she says, their vision is not only to create a new retail wine shop, but also a space where they can make their guests feel more at home, host events and serve wine by the glass.
“We’d love to be open all day,” she says, “And I’d love to have a little counter service cafe of sorts where we could offer glass pours of wine and some basic snacks. I’m also really excited about the idea of partnering with other local businesses and using our space to showcase the things that they make and do.”
Kruse says the layout of the shop will include a wine bar and a seating area with both tables and banquette-style seating. There will also be a larger retail shop that’s separated from the cafe, allowing folks to browse and taste all in the same space. A 600 square foot patio space to the south of the shop will also allow customers to enjoy a glass of wine outside during the more clement months.
Kruse says that, if all goes well, they could be looking at an opening as early as February of 2022. But, she says, there are numerous factors, including supply chain delays, that could impact the timing.
“We’re excited about the move, but we’re not in a particular hurry,” she says, “We are lucky to have a space that works for us for now, so there’s not as much pressure to get into the new space.”
She anticipates the shop will close for a brief period of time (maybe as much as a week) to accommodate the move; but she says they will remain open for as long as possible.
NonFiction Natural Wines is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.